During a visit last fall to the Temple of Great Awakening, the sprawling complex built by the Buddhist organization Fo Guang Shan in Yixing, the Venerable Master Hsing Yun, the group’s founder and one of modern China’s most prominent religious figures.
Fo Guang Shan Buddha Museum in Taiwan
About Master Hsing Yun
Venerable Master Hsing Yun is a Chinese Buddhist monk, author, philanthropist, and founder of the Fo Guang Shan monastic order, which has branches throughout Asia, Europe, Africa, Australia, and the Americas. Ordained at the age of twelve in Jiangsu Province, China, Hsing Yun has spent over seventy years as a Buddhist monk promoting what he calls “Humanistic Buddhism”—Buddhism that meets the needs of people and is integrated into all aspects of daily life.
In 1949, Hsing Yun went to Taiwan and began to nurture the burgeoning Buddhist culture on the island. Early on in his monastic career, he was involved in promoting Buddhism through the written word. He has served as an editor and contributor for many Buddhist magazines and periodicals, authoring the daily columns “Between Ignorance and Enlightenment,” “Dharma Words,” and “Hsing Yun’s Chan Talk.”In 1957, he started his own Buddhist magazine, Awakening the World, and in 2000, the first daily Buddhist newspaper, the Merit Times.
Hsing Yun has authored more than one hundred books on how to bring happiness, peace, compassion and wisdom into daily life. These works include For All Living Beings, Humanistic Buddhism: A Blueprint for Life, and Chan Heart, Chan Art. He also edited and published the Fo Guang Encyclopedia, the most authoritative Buddhist reference work in the Chinese language. His contributions have reached as far as sponsoring Buddhist music and art to creating Buddhist programming for television, radio, and the stage.
What are the goals of Fo Guang Shan in promoting Buddhism in mainland China?
I don’t want to promote Buddhism! I only promote Chinese culture to cleanse humanity.
What are the spiritual needs of ordinary Chinese people nowadays? How can Fo Guang Shan satisfy their spiritual needs?
I offer people what they want. I think, in the secular world, they want money and love. But they also need peace, safety and happiness. In this regard I offer them encouragement, truth and transcendence. By influencing them, I make them relieved both physically and mentally, unrestrained and stable.
Does the mainland leadership support your work?
I support the leadership. They care for us as well. It is mutual. We Buddhists uphold whoever is in charge. Buddhists don’t get involved in politics. But we respect the leadership, ethics and rule of law.
After the Cultural Revolution, Buddhism in China was severely damaged. The new generation of Buddhists lacks talent, education and role models. I encourage fellow Buddhists to strive for kindness.
Are you satisfied with Fo Guang Shan’s development in the mainland?
The mainland is gradually making progress. There are some restrictions on religion. But I have also felt their kindness. They help us to restore temples in the mainland.
When I give speeches in the mainland, I don’t feel any restrictions. There are always thousands; sometimes tens of thousands of people listening to me speak. They never stop them. I also have many undertakings, and they never say no to me. The People’s Publishing House even publishes my books. I think they know that I acknowledge Chinese culture, especially Buddhism in Chinese culture.
Chinese believe in karma, which contributes to stabilizing society, rebuilding moral ethics and building people’s confidence. We are here to strengthen it to inspire our compatriots.
What do lay Buddhists in the mainland need the most?
Lay Buddhists most need Buddhist doctrine and a relieved mind. Society is rife with superstition and cults. Fewer people believe in real Buddhism. Real Buddhism is about mercy, wisdom and dissolving confrontation.
Is Taiwan part of China?
President Xi said Taiwan and the mainland belong to the same family. I think the entire human race should love, respect and tolerate each other. The government here gives us land without asking for money. They send people to water the plants for us. I hope the government can treat people fairly like this.
An excerpt from a conversation he has made conversations.